I am an old seadog these days. In my youth I would rarely miss work, school or a duty day for something as irritating as a cold or flu. For centuries, if a Sailor went to Sick Call and was placed on the “binnacle list”, the leading Seaman or later, the Chief Petty Officer would let it be known that Sailor had better be suffering Scarlet Fever or a severed artery. Shirkers normally found themselves on duty rosters during port calls. These days I have accepted that I no longer can bicycle fifteen miles to my duty station and immediately run ( and pass) the PRT fitness test – I was then still under 30 years old; I probably would not be able to hoist a sixty or seventy Damage Control bag over my shoulder while wearing an OBA * and hustle up or down the ladder during one of the shipboard training sessions – the General Quarters Drill ( I was not quite 36 then). My older body has stopped writing the checks my ego really can’t cash. (For those who may never have seen a check, this idiom was once a popular expression.)
There once was a time in America when self-reliance, mental and physical toughness were characteristics of mature males – college educated or working class. So when an acquaintance talked about his Army veteran dad only recently talking with a Veterans Administration representative about medical issues he has had for the last thirty years, and getting a disability rating as a result, I listened.
More than twenty years ago, I was hospitalized after weeks-long exposure to toxic fumes; However, the service and my young invincibility complex made little of it. In hindsight, a ruptured appendix that year and 20 years of hospital visits for gastric issues might be connected. And for good measure, Gulf War inoculations, and radiation might be worth a good look. Even if the Government declines, I will gain experience that I can pass on to my son in the Army. He’s definitely got physical issues that were aggravated by his service. But he too, is a tough, self-reliant type. I don’t want him to wait 20 years.